Filled with holiday joy, friendship and healing, over 400 orphans and 150 widows attended the annual Colel Chabad Chanuka Retreat at the Ramada Hotel in Jerusalem this week.
The three-day getaway included full meals, nightly candle lighting and parties, children’s and youth entertainment programs and day excursions.
For Elana, a mother of two young daughters, this retreat is something their family looks forward to every year. “When my husband passed away suddenly in an accident a few years ago, I was here without a support network, as my family is in the US. Colel Chabad has really been a source of strength for me and my daughters in the aftermath of his tragic death.”
The annual retreats are designed to alleviate some of the hardship of loss that bereaved families often feel during family-oriented times. “Holidays are always difficult without a complete family unit and without other family in Israel, we did not have a natural support network to turn to on holidays,” she continued. “Colel Chabad’s invitation every Chanukah made a time that our loss is emphasized into a time where we look forward to spending with the unique family they built - people dealing with loss that come together every year, forge deep connections, and a new "family" has been created in these unique circumstances. We meet other children and women with a similar experience.”
Israel’s longest running social services organization since 1788, Colel Chabad provides community and support to Israel’s needy and bereaved through various programs and projects, including scholarships and tutoring or enrichment programs for students, job training for mothers and monthly or weekly food packages for the needy.
“The holiday is a time of light and joy, and to see these wonderful families who have gone through so much be able to relax, enjoy and bond with others in similar situations, is truly a blessing,” said Rabbi Sholom Duchman, Director of Colel Chabad. “Thank you to the Finger family and the Meromim Foundation for their continued support of this project.”
“Colel Chabad has created a place which supports and nourishes us, that gives us strength and also hope to look forward to spending holidays together,” added Elana. “While it might just sound like a retreat to the outsider, for those who have suffered loss this program is life changing.”